Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office
Weather: Sunny and mid-nineties
Last week I spoke to an editor about a potential client who published a recent nonfiction book with their publishing house. Here’s what the editor said, “The manuscript took us by surprise. It needed a tremendous amount of editing when it came in. It was choppy. Transitions were rough and the whole thing needed smoothing.” I asked if they were interested in this author’s next book. Guess what the answer was?
That’s not the kind of surprise you want your editor to receive upon opening your manuscript, but I’m afraid it happens more often than one would guess. I’ve even heard authors quip that grammar and spelling are why we love editors. That may be true but, these days especially, we need to turn in near-perfect manuscripts. I know I sound like a broken record but the market has never been tighter and the competition has never been as stiff. Even if you see yourself as an old hand at publishing, be aware that there are new voices out there– excellent voices– who will only find a slot if you lose yours.
Here’s why sloppiness can be a career killer:
- Publishing houses have had one downsize after another with smaller and smaller staffs to do the same amount of work. Your editor is not a good steward of his time if he allows you to turn in a rough manuscript. He has to answer to management for his time and if you affect his output you will not be his favorite author.
- Many houses are now using outside editors. If the freelancer quoted a price based on a clean manuscript and then he receives one that needs a lot more work, it’s going to come to the attention of the editor. Plus many of these contract editors work for multiple houses and are influential in the industry. Your reputation is at stake. What do you think would hppen if another editor goes to that freelancer and says, “I’m thinking of signing Author X. Would you be willing to edit him?”
- Even with editing a sloppy or disorganized manuscript is not going to make the best book. You cannot risk alienating readers. think about how many times we’ve heard someone say, “Okay, that’s it. That’s the last book I’m going to read from that author.” That’s a carer killer. We need to build audience with every book.
It’s a small world. Word gets around. If you earn a reputation for being last minute and turning in a manuscript that needs a lot of work, listen carefully– the clock is ticking on your career.
Let me ask you: if you are not sure your manuscript is polished to near-perfection what can you do?